Teens With Fake Social Networking Profiles: Are Your Kids Safe?
Social networking is on the rise, and so is parental monitoring. The good news is that most parents actively enforce rules regarding Internet safety and engage in various types of monitoring to ensure their child's safety on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace.
The bad news is that many kids try to get around parental monitoring by creating a “dummy” profile, and many parents are none the wiser about it.
I stumbled across a Yahoo Answers question that was a variation of the teenage cry “Help! My dad is stalking me on Facebook reading all my stuff!” Most of the people answering said that the solution was simple: create a fake profile. The important thing was to post to the dummy account often enough to make it appear real.
Some parents are under the false impression that Facebook can prevent people from making duplicate accounts. But think about it: there are thousands of people named “Jason Smith” out there, and each of them can create their own account. And your teen's real profile might not even be under their real name, but a nickname.
Most social networks do ask their users to have only one account, but really, the best they can do is limit it to one account per email address. Legally, the only problem is when someone is creating duplicate accounts and impersonating someone else online – so teens who create fake profiles just to fool their parents aren't in any legal trouble.
Even though it's not illegal, it does mean that there is a trust issue between the teen and the parents. Fake profiles don't necessarily signal a teen's involvement in dangerous behavior, but they are a sign that your teen disagrees with you about the appropriate balance between privacy and monitoring.
There may be situations that require parents to take a different parental monitoring approach, but in general I'm a believer that keeping kids safe online works best when the child is informed and on board – and they feel that their privacy is being respected and not unnecessarily invaded.
Jenny Evans is a mother of four and a freelance writer specializing in parenting, childhood, and family issues.